I am most disturbed by political mail-outs I’ve received lately. They certainly reach a new low in negative campaigning, and not because they attack the opposing candidate, but they assault the Constitution of the United States. I’m not speaking in a vacuum, I served this county as the public defender, was chief magistrate judge and continued practicing thereafter as private counsel until my recent retirement. I know the value of the Constitution.

I’ve seen honorable prosecutors and some who got so involved in “us vs. them” they lost sight of the reasons for constitutional protections. Don’t, get me wrong, I’ve seen defense attorneys just as bad. But recent political ads for those running for governmental office that appeal to the lowest and worst of our instincts and denigrate our right to counsel are, in my simple mind, disgusting.

The constitutional right to counsel is one of our most important defenses against governmental mistakes and, God forbid, governmental tyranny. Shakespeare didn’t write “First, kill all the lawyers” because lawyers are evil, but, rather because, according to tyrants, defense attorneys protect against abuses of government power by leveling the playing field between an all-powerful and well-funded government and , maybe, just maybe, the wrongfully accused.

Most folks who are charged by the state are guilty, I’ll readily admit that. But, our country’s founders chose not to take one’s life, liberty or property without assuring due process and right to counsel.

Let’s keep it that way.

Ernest Gilbert

St. Simons Island

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